Meet the people behind Berrys – Graham Clark

Published November 2nd, 2016

This week we are interviewing Planning Consultant, Graham Clark based in our Hereford office. Graham has over 22 years of experience as a planner and has worked in both the public and private sectors.

What does a normal day at Berrys look like?
Overseeing the submission and progression of a planning application requires me to be a project manager for the job and consequently a ‘normal day’ involves checking that appropriate actions and steps are being taken. This includes co-ordinating external consultants to produce technical reports, chasing council officers for responses, keeping clients informed of progress and checking appropriate council policy documents to ensure proposals are fully policy compliant.

What aspect of your work do you enjoy most?
I always enjoy meeting new clients and getting out on-site, especially when it becomes clear that the proposal looks likely to be acceptable in planning terms. Securing planning permission always gives me a buzz.

Have you got any funny/unusual stories that you’ve come across in your career at Berrys?
This isn’t a funny story but I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. I had a recent case which got a somewhat mixed response from the council’s ecology officers. Both a planning and listed building application had been submitted and for some reason two different ecology officers provided comments on the proposal. One recognised that the submitted bat survey had identified the presence of bats and therefore it would be reasonable to assume that the neighbouring farm buildings, which were to be removed as part of the scheme would also have bats using them even though they hadn’t been surveyed. Provided that appropriate procedures were followed, the ecology officer had no objection.
The other ecology officer objected, stating that all the buildings would need to be surveyed, which would cost around £3,500. Fortunately it was agreed that the first advice would be used. What this does highlight is the issue of interpreting policies and legislation, which can often lead to confusion and uncertainty.

What would be your one key piece of advice for someone thinking of starting a planning project?
The sooner you seek professional advice the better. Whilst the principle of a proposal may be acceptable, the devil is always in the detail. It’s therefore important to allow sufficient time to check the details so that any issues can be resolved, ensuring that there won’t be any unexpected surprises later on.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?
Securing planning permission for a young couple looking to convert a former workshop building into a house. The Council had taken enforcement action to get them to remove their mobile home from the site and advised them that planning permission would not be granted to convert the workshop building into a house, which would have made them homeless.
A strong case was put forward and after much ‘discussion’ with the Council planning permission was secured. It was a very emotional moment when I was able to inform the clients of this decision.

What do you need to keep in mind when converting an agricultural barn to residential use?
I think the structural stability of the existing building is probably the most important aspect. If the building is structurally sound it will be possible to convert the building to residential use. That’s why I always advise clients to look after their buildings as securing planning permission on a derelict building is much more difficult.

If you need any planning advice, don’t hesitate to contact Graham.